Why You Must Become More Assertive in Photography and Life
What does “assertive” mean?
The word assertive comes from the Latin “assertus“, which initially meant to declare yourself free and not a slave. For myself, I see assertion as:
Having the chutzpah/balls/huevos to declare yourself, whether you’re “right” or wrong.
When you’re assertive, you declare yourself, you affirm yourself, and you legitimize yourself.
Why is assertive seem as bad?
Generally speaking, it is seen as bad to be too assertive. Why? As a society we have decided that aggressive people are bad/evil, because they are dangerous and injurious to the herd/masses.
However in street photography (or any type of photography or artwork) you must be assertive in order to succeed and advance to the next level.
You cannot succeed if you’re meek, and constantly asking for permission. My personal motto is:
Better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.
To me, this is what being assertive is all about.
Can you be assertive without pissing other people off?
Of course not. If you’re assertive, or pursuing your dreams or personal ideals, you’re going to piss off a lot of people! You’re gonna piss off your boss, your parents, your siblings, your partner, strangers, co-workers, etc.
Anyone who tells you that it is possible to be assertive without pissing off others is either delusional or lying to you.
Is it bad to piss off others?
To be frank, you’re only mildly annoying others in street photography.
I think a lot of people are also afraid of physical or verbal/mental aggression from others.
So the question is this:
Do you have enough guts to stand up for yourself and what you do?
Or in more simple terms:
Can you take a punch?
Perhaps as a rite of passage into street photography, we should have taken a punch to the face at least once. Boxing lessons or MMA lessons perhaps might help our self-confidence, or to overcome risk aversion. I’ve been punched a lot in the past, and to be honest, it’s not that bad or painful.
Thus we must not be so afraid of pain (physical or mental) in order to become more assertive.
Better be perceived as an asshole than a nice guy
Nice guys finish last, always. No great individual in society was seen as a “nice guy” who obeyed the rules. Even the civil disobedience that Gandhi encouraged took a ton of physical courage (getting physically beaten by cops and the government). Even Martin Luther Kong Jr.; the threat of death was constantly looming, hanging above you like the sword of Damacoles.
Or in other words:
If you want to become the most epic you possible, it is better to be feared and hated than to be loved.
Don’t be a people pleaser
I can speak from personal experience:
Whenever I was a people pleaser or too nice, I’ve been suckered.
As a rule, I think it is good to be polite to everyone you first meet. But once you meet someone who isn’t polite to you, or someone who is trying to take advantage of you, ruthlessly cut them from your life.
How bad do you want it?
I don’t think being assertive means to intentionally act like an asshole to everyone. To me, it means:
Follow your own personal code of morals and ethics, and ignore anyone who calls you a bad/evil person.
No matter how good a person you are, you will always find someone to think you’re an asshole, or have ulterior motives. Whatever, just do you, and if you start hearing others call you an asshole, smile — it means you’re succeeding and making an impact in the world.
Assertion is good. Self-expression is good. Follow your own inner-morals and code of ethics, and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.